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The early stone phase
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The early stone phaseThe next stage in the development of Stonehenge saw its transformation, some time just before 2500 BC, from a simple enclosure to something quite different. Stones arrived: sarsens from the Marlborough Downs, and a much greater number of bluestones from the Preseli Hills in Wales. Four small sarsens, now known as the Station Stones, were set upright just inside the inner edge of the bank, immediately outside the enclosure entrance were two larger sarsens, the surviving example now known as the Heel Stone.

The bluestones were first set up in a peculiar arrangement that is only known from excavation. Two concentric arcs of stone holes, known as the Q and R Holes, were found on the northern and eastern sides of the central area of the site. This setting is difficult to interpret. The arcs of stone holes may have been part of a circular structure, but few traces of it have been found on what would have been its southern and western sides. It does, however, reflect the axis of the enclosure: multiple stone holes on its north-eastern side pointing in this highly significant direction. The precise date of this stone setting is unknown, although it must have been built at an early stage as both Q and R Holes are cut through by holes dug to take stones of the later bluestone circle.

The early stone phase

The construction of the double bluestone circle at Stonehenge, envisaged here as constructed before the larger sarsens arrived, some time just before 2500 BC.

Although the bluestones all come from the Preseli Hills, they include many different types of rock. Some are attractive blue-greens or blue-greys, sometimes flecked or spotted with white, others are soft and dull-looking. So why was this miscellaneous collection of stones brought from Wales to Salisbury Plain?

The early stone phase

A fine battle-axe made from Preseli bluestone, from a barrow south of Stonehenge (now in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum).

Perhaps what arrived were the components of a complete stone circle that had stood in Wales. Here each stone, attractive or not, would have been special. In this and in all their subsequent rearrangements, the bluestones appear to have stood as single upright pillars. But evidence of worn mortise and tenon joints on some of them suggest that they may have stood as parts of miniature bluestone trilithons.

No trace of this arrangement of bluestones can be seen today. The stones were removed and their holes packed with chalk. But what accompanied them did survive – the massive sarsen circle and the trilithons.

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